Delany sounds off on pay-for-play issue

ROSEMONT, Ill. -- You already know Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany is among the most vocal opponents of a pay-for-play system in college sports.

You also should know Delany is among the more vocal advocates for increasing the value of athletic scholarships so athletes can cover basic costs and enjoy their college experiences more, while putting their families more at ease. He was the first power broker to propose them in May 2011. These types of changes should come soon, as major conferences are on the verge of a significant restructuring. In fact, Delany said he expects a restructuring plan to be in place by next spring.

What you probably don't know are Delany's expanded thoughts on the pay-for-play debate, which he believes threatens a collegiate model that has been around for more than a century. He shared his views with myself and three other reporters Wednesday night following the Conference Commissioners Association meeting at the Big Ten's new office. Delany and other major-conference commissioners met about the upcoming College Football Playoff, which you can read about here.

Delany's major point Wednesday night: If athletes want to cash in, they should go pro right out of high schools. Go to the NBA developmental league. Go to some type of minor league for football (it would help if the NFL established one).

If you don't want to be a part of college sports, don't be.

Here's a sampling of what Delany had to say. I think you'll find it as interesting as I did, especially in light of the ongoing Ed O'Bannon antitrust lawsuit against the NCAA.

Mr. Delany, the floor is yours …

  • "Maybe in football and basketball, it would work better if more kids had a chance to go directly into the professional ranks. If they're not comfortable and want to monetize, let the minor leagues flourish. Train at IMG, get agents to invest in your body, get agents to invest in your likeness, and establish it on your own. But don't come here and say, 'We want to be paid $25,000 or $50,000.' Go to the D-League and get it, go to the NBA and get it, go to the NFL and get it."

  • "We've been training kids for professional sports. I argue it's the color, I argue it's the institution. If you think it's about you, then talk to John Havlicek about that, you've got to talk to Michael Jordan about that. These brands have been built over 100 years."

  • "I don't view it as a labor force. I view them as athletes, as students. I view the universities and the brands that have been here for 118 years. It's built by predecessors, from Isiah Thomas to Magic Johnson to John Havlicek to Archie Clark to Red Grange."

  • "You don't have to play for the Redskins or the Bears at 17, but you could develop [at] IMG. My gosh, there are lots of trainers out there. There are quarterback coaches teaching passing skills, guys lifting weights, guys training and running. They can get as strong and as fast in that environment as they can in this environment. Plus, they don't have to go to school. Plus, they can sell their likeness and do whatever they want to do. We don't want to do that. What we want to do is do what we've been doing for 100 years."

  • "I think we ought to work awful hard with the NFL and the NBA to create an opportunity for those folks. We have it in baseball, we have it in golf, works pretty good, we have it in golf, we have it in hockey. Why don't we have it in football, basketball? Why is it our job to be minor leagues for professional sports."

  • "We can't do Title IX and have professional sports in basketball and football, and have lots of opportunities. It's not going to work. It just doesn't fit. But we should do what we can do, which is kids are full-time students, which means they want to be here, which means they prefer to be here. If you would prefer to be somewhere else, we should encourage the sports organizations that benefit from that to find a way to change it. I don't know if they will or they won't. That's not my call. But we could be successful if there were minor-league football and basketball, if there were kids who decided to go that route."

  • "Would you rather be in the D-League in the Dakotas or would you rather be playing here? I think some kids would rather be in the D-League, where that's all they'd focus on. We'd be better off in a lot of cases. We would have less tension about kids who are in school who maybe don't want to be there."

  • "If the only way is pay-for-play, then the courts will decide that. Congress will have to figure that out. I'm not worried about it. What I'm worried about is get a restructure, get a deal, get an outcome that is more sensible for the 21st century."

  • "I'm willing to give up the benefit. If there's so much value here, let them handle that value. Let them extract it. I think I can be very successful because I think what we offer, for most kids, is superior to what the minor-league experience would be."

  • "Being a full-time student is basic, providing opportunities for women is basic, providing Olympic sports opportunities for men is basic. The expectation they should graduate at or about the same rate is basic. I don't want to give those things up. Why? Because we're wildly successful in football and basketball? Now, if a judge says, 'You must pay,' I said, 'OK. Tell us what to do now.'"

The comments from the Big Ten commish blew up my Twitter feed earlier tonight. I'm interested in your thoughts, too, so send them here.